Have you ever heard of an ugly stick? I hadn’t until Andrea opened a closet door in her basement and hauled theirs out.
The instrument’s main body is a mop or broom handle cut to approximately four feet. An old rubber boot is attached to the bottom and a cymbal attached at the very top. At strategic intervals along the length of the shaft, nails affixed with bottle caps, felt tins and other noise makers can be nailed into the shaft.
In other words it’s a one person percussion section! This one had an apple juice can affixed to the top as the “cymbal”, the obligatory boot with mop and beer bottle caps, and a piece of foam part way down covered with masking tape. A notched broomstick as bow creates yet another percussion accompaniment.
She and Charles both play guitars and sing for their own entertainment as well as for friends. So adding in an ugly stick was just a natural extension of a long-standing Newfoundland tradition. This stick (which Charles built 25 years or more ago) has travelled with them to many location across Canada.
Charles played it for me:
I tried playing it! The bloody thing is damned heavy – you are raising the stick and beating the boot on the floor, at the same time drawing the bow across the stick (making the bottle caps jungle like a tambourine), and hitting the juice can (cymbal) for emphasis all in time to the music. It is hard work.
You can see how an ugly stick livens up a good party!